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Agony at Easter

Coffey, Thomas M

Baltimore, M.D.: Penguin Books


Agony at Easter

Plot Summary

Separated into six separate chapters for each of the days that Dublin was in the hands of the Provisional Government, this work of historical fiction depicts in great detail the events in and directly around the GPO during the 1916 Rising.

The first chapter introduces the leaders of the Rising and describes the taking of the GPO as rebel soldiers have it evacuated and barricaded. The Lancers arrive and storm the building, but their swords are no match for the rebel guns; three men and two horses are killed and another man is badly wounded. The rebels lose several of their own men in careless accidents, and their credibility is risked because hundreds of Dublin’s poor begin rioting and looting around the GPO.

By the second day, everyone is shocked that the British Army has not launched a full-fledged attack on the Post Office. But the sound of gunfire becomes more and more insistent—it becomes obvious that the rebel soldiers guarding the other strongholds throughout the city are at serious risk—and soon British snipers have targeted the rebels’ own snipers on the roof. By the third day it is reported that a British gunboat near Butt Bridge is lobbing shells at Liberty Hall.

On the fourth day, fires of untraceable origin sweep the city and several shells hit the GPO. Connolly gathers thirty men to help him take the offices of the Irish Independent, but on the way his ankle is shattered by a sniper’s bullet. By the fifth day, incendiary bombs are falling everywhere in the GPO, and it soon becomes clear that it must be evacuated. The O’Rahilly leads an advance guard to secure a nearby factory, but many of his men are mowed down on the way; he, too, is shot to death. Desperately trying to find cover and new buildings to secure, the rebels move along the street by knocking holes in the walls of adjoining houses. Pearse plans to again storm the British barricades, but upon seeing a group of civilians shot down while trying to escape from a burning building, he decides that unconditional surrender is inevitable. After this surrender is planned through a series messages delivered back and forth, all the insurgents march to Henry Street and deposit their arms.

Main Characters

  • James Connolly

  • Joseph Mary Plunkett

  • Patrick Pearse

  • Michael O'Rahilly (The O'Rahilly)

Significant Minor Characters

  • Thomas Clarke

  • Sean MacDermott

  • Thomas Macdonagh

  • W.J. Brennan Whitmore

  • Joseph Cripps

  • Michael Collins

  • Elizabeth O'Farrell

Publication History

The novel was first published in hardcover in May 1969 by MacMillan, who also released it in paperback that year. It was reprinted in hardcover by Chambers Harrap in 1970 (Edinburgh). A subsequent paperback edition was printed by Pelican Books, a division of Penguin, in October 1971 and in 1989 (Baltimore, Maryland). Novel is currently out of print.

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